Friday, March 28, 2008

Thoughts of Beirut

It has been more difficult than I anticipated returning to “normal” life here in the states. Being back in the office and serving here at the church has always been a pleasure. But somehow it just does not seem to be enough.

We (I) am so very spoiled. The creature comforts just fell into place. The first thing I did was to take a long hot shower and washed my hair. It seemed a great pleasure to use my hairdryer. It did not work in Beirut and each morning I air dried my hair by fanning it with a book or standing with my head out the window in the sun and breeze. I am still thinking of coloring my hair this weekend because the sulfur water in Beirut took out some of the color and my roots are showing. There was laundry to do and so I flopped in front of the TV while the washer and dryer where running.

None of these things are wrong, really. But it reminds me how much we have and we don’t even see it. We have so many blessings from the Lord and yet we pass by them daily without a thought of thanking our God for his graciousness to us. This is what has me so troubled. I don’t want to forget what I experiences in Beirut. I don’t want to forget the faces and lives that we came in contact with. I don’t want this trip to be wasted by forgetting the lessons learned.

While in Beirut I observed the dedication and skill with which the fellow believers worked long hard days without a single complaint. They walked worthy of their calling. They have the same struggles as many of us in the states. They have single mom’s raising children alone, wives with husbands off to war, seminary students struggling to maintain their walk with Lord, family issues, and work concerns.

The last night in Beirut, Byron gathered us together and asked what stuck with us most. I was amazed at the dedication to serving the Lord of the young camp leaders. They were 16-25 years old. There was no cool factor to keep up. No cliques, No fashion statements. Just pure love for the children and a heart of service. If there was anything that took me by surprise it was the language barrier. My heart was ready to share the love of Christ and the message of salvation but I could not speak a word. As soon as I realized many did not understand English I clammed up. I was paralyzed. Byron tried to comfort me by saying the children knew that I loved them. But I am not sure. I hugged them and loved on them in action as much as I could. Smiles, laughing, giving them candy, waving to them, saying hi. It just does not seem enough. I left so much opportunity behind.

I was disobedient to the Lord for so many years and now that I have stepped out in faith and gone on a mission trip, I feel that I have failed somehow. I am trying hard to just trust the Lord with what we did accomplish in Beirut. To let Him give the increase, but it is hard. Even here in the office I feel completely useless. Like a boat on a stagnant sea. No wind in the sails, no waves in the sea, no current to pull you along. Just sitting here, doing nothing, in the water. I feel dead inside. I question my usefulness realizing I am nothing without God.

It is heartbreaking. Now that I am home, I am struggling to return to the Cindy I was when I left, not sure that I even want to. My confidence in my gifts is gone. I am barren in the midst of a dark dessert. God is giving me a time of loneliness. Reflecting. Meditating. I will let Him do what He will, only to bring Glory to Him through my suffering. My burden for the people of Beirut is very heavy, but His grace is sufficient. And I will trust Him.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mixed Emotions

Home is where your heart is, so they say. But my heart is still in Beirut. I can't get the faces out of my mind. The faithful saints who are plodding along each day. Taking it one day at a time. Sharing the love of Christ with whomever they meet. So Kind, So Faithful!

Above is picture of the view from our room at the seminary. You can see the Mediterranean Sea in the background. What a beautiful view! The camp overall was successful and the children had a wonderful time. The language barrier was very difficult for me. There were so many things I wanted to say to the children but only about half could understand English. Those who knew some English could not always understand what you were saying. It was paralyzing at times for me. I tried to just hug on them and say what I could. When I go back I want to learn a little Arabic so that I can express my love and concern for them in a language they can understand. Several children were begging us to return for the next camp in the summer. The disappointment on their face was painful. As we drove to the airport I felt a bit like I do when leaving Angie's after the birth of a grand baby. So little time, so much love and I don't know what to do with the feelings. I was not ready to return. There is so much there to accomplish. So many to reach. I wanted to build relationships. The tears were ready to flow and it took great effort to hold them back.

It was amazing to find that the Lebanese believers asked us to pray for the same things many in America request prayer for. The Seminary wives asked us to pray that the Lord would show them how to balance ministry and family. How to live in a fish bowl. I immediately thought of Robin, our pastors wife. She does an amazing job of this. We had a chance to pray with 5 of these women. It was awesome to bind our hearts in prayer with fellow believers we had never met. Just 20 minutes together caused a bond that will last.

While I am glad to be home and close to those I love, God has given me a love for these fellow believers. I pray I never forget them.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Heading Home From Beirut

We just arrived back from camp. It was a great time. We are very tired and hot. It is unsually warm for this season here. In the 80's today. We are spending the evening relaxing.
There is so much to tell I am sure we will have to be home and process it all to get it on paper. When we think of children at camp you think of happy cheerful kids playing without much of a care in the world. But we had a little girl with Scistic Fibrocis, a boy with lukemia, a little boy, Tony who witnessed a relative commit suicide, another boy who had a blood disease. He had to be on a machine to cleanse his blood for 12 hours every three days. One girl 12 years old just lost her mother to cancer. Dad remarried quickly and she is not handling it well. On little guy is beaten frequently by his parents and clung to his counselor the first 2 days for security. It was heart wrenching.
When we left today several children asked for our email addresses. Some said, Will you please come back in the summer for our next camp? They were so disappointment when we said we can't. It was hard to say good bye. We were all fighting back the tears.
God has softened our hearts for the believers here in Lebanon. They are faithful servants doing their best to reach others in their community for Christ. They are not ashamed of the gospel. The children heard the message of salvation clearly this weekend. Some prayed the prayer of salvations. We continue to pray that they will take that message home and share it with their family. That they will not forget the message of the camp. You are loved just as you are.
We will be siteseeing tomorrow and then head for the airport about 11pm. Arrive in Nashville around 4:30 pm your time

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hello From Beirut

We are here!

We arrived safely and very tired. I could not sleep on the flight from Atlanta to Paris . So Byron shared his meds with me and I was able to sleep from Paris to Beirut . We are doing pretty with the jet lag so far. They say another day or so and it will set in. Hopefully the Lord will spare us.

This morning we awoke to a beautiful day! The weather here is like a wonderful spring morning. Following a breakfast of pita, olives, apricot preserves and cream cheese we headed out by taxi to the Gateway Bookstore. The store is associated with the seminary here. It was amazing how many books you could recognize from the cover. This small store was your typical small Christian bookstore in the US . We did not have much time to shop but Mark did buy me a beautiful tray with wood inlay for only $16.00! See why I wanted to look around a little more.

We headed out to the Baptist school and go there in time for recess. There were lots of children running and playing within this total concrete play yard. No playground equipment very few balls. Just children running, laughing and playing. It was very difficult to hold back the tears. My heart strings were pulled! I found myself praying silently that the Lord would not only protect their hearts and minds but that they would experience the love of Christ. So many precious little faces to capture and so little time to try and talk. Our time for that will come at camp I guess.

We did get to see part of the children’s Mother’s Day Program at the school. It was so sweet! The first class up was one of the First Grade classes. The girls had little green tootoo on and the boys little green vests. They came up the isle with grins on their little faces. Just beaming with pride! They dance a ballet to music I recognized. It was precious. The Second Grade did a skit about us all having an angel to help us where we are hurt or lonely or need comfort. This angel’s name is mother. I would have paid good money to see the rest of this program.

The Lord is continuing to tender my heart for the people here. It is almost as if you can tell by the look on their faces who is a believer and who is not. Many look angry, but those here at the seminary and at the school are some of the most happy faces I have ever seen. Their hospitality is tremendous. We feel so at home.

Please continue to pray that our work here will bring glory to the Lord. That we will remain humble servants of His. Pray also for the camp this weekend.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Don't Waste God's Calling

Tracy, my friend Martha’s sister in law, has left a deep impression on my life, though I never met her. She died in her own bed after returning from her first mission trip. She went to the Congo in Africa. At the age of 50 she finally took the plunge and let go of her fear and trusted God. ( Go to the website "Tracy's Heart" for this great story of one woman's step of faith and the lasting impact on the women of the Congo). It made me stop and realize that I had been letting fear keep me from doing something God has asked me to do many times. My heart broke to realize that I had wasted nearly 30 years of my life in fear of what others would think. I was afraid of really selling out to Christ because my family might think I am weird. I knew God was not pleased with this but I pushed it to the back of mind and ignored the impulses of the Holy Spirit to step out in faith and do what God had called me to do.

But this Sunday morning we will leave for Beirut. This trip contains any "firsts" for me. First time to jump off the high dive and completely trust God with the out come. First time to travel out of the country. First Mission trip. It all reminds me a bit of my dependence on the Lord after Stan's death. Just me and God. Life goes on but my mind is on Him. Leaning on Him for everything. Knowing I can't do it by myself and no other human can fulfill the desire of my heart. What a precious time with Him! How overwhelming to realize that He has chosen me and given me this opportunity to serve Him. There are many others more fitting, more equipped. But He wants me to go. And so I will.

Read “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper. Then take a hard look at your commitment to the Lord and what you do for His glory. Take His hand and become the person God has called you to me. Walk worthy. Make a difference for the sake of the Lord.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Getting Ready

Well, the bags are coming our of storage today and we will begin packing for our mission trip to Beirut Lebanon. Our group will get together tomorrow night to pack the supplies for camp. Then Mark and I will begin packing our personal things. It has been nearly 15 years since we have been away from home for this long. What to pack, what to leave, will I need it, can we get it in Beirut? So many decisions.

The nerves are starting to take hold and between my fears and the pure excitement I don't know what to think. I feel really bad about leaving Andrea especially for Easter Sunday. The kids and Mark's parents will not have an Easter Dinner. Family traditions are very near to my heart and it will seem very odd to miss this opportunity to gather as a family.

I know that Andrea is 20 years old and she is very capable of caring for herself. She is after all, an adult. Andrew and Crystal are near by as well as all of our church family. But it is just that Mother thing. Lanning will have his first birthday, Angie is expecting....I guess I need to spend time praying and leaving them in God's hands.

This experience is a bit like jumping off the high dive for me. Something I have wanted to do for 20+ years. Desired it from afar. I have climbed the ladder and backed back down several times. But this time I am going to jump. This time I know that the Holy Spirit is encouraging me. This time I am going to be obedient.

Please pray for Mark and I as well as Tom, Bethany, Andy, Amie, Chuck, Elaine and Byron. God's sovereignty is still in control. He has orchestrated this trip and already knows the outcome. Pray also for the children at the camp. If just for four days they get a glimpse of God's love it will be worth it all.